Showing posts with label Live Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Live Reviews. Show all posts

Apr 26, 2016

Lucero & St. Paul & The Broken Bones Rock Memphis

Just some random thoughts and sights from the Lucero Block Party 2016.
by Trailer 

Minglewood Hall (outside), Midtown Memphis TN, April 23, 2016

Young Valley
Mississippi boys, Young Valley opened the show as we were coming into the venue. They're cool. Country music with ample rock energy and weird fun thrown in. They started the "better live than on album" theme of the day… but I guess that's how 90% of 'our' acts are. Young Valley was exuberant to be there and it showed. They played their short stint with energy and joy. I've heard them do a better set, but it was damn good stuff. They're a band to watch in coming years.

• Ben Nichols of Lucero stood directly in front of the stage watching Young Valley for a while, until he was unable to do so because of folks asking for pictures and autographs. I'm a huge fan, but I've met him before and he was enjoying the show, so I didn't bother him.

• Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones was also in the  crowd, but he was more hanging out than watching. He looked completely different in street clothes, to the point that my friend and I were debating whether it was him or not. It was.

Mark Edgar Stuart was next on the lineup. I haven't heard him nearly as much as I've heard the rest of the acts, but he was damn good, funny, and engaging. He seems to me something of a mix of folk music + Willie Nelson (vocally) + Randy Newman. Mark sang his new single "Don't Blame Jesus," which was timely and HILARIOUS, and got the crowd into high spirits.

• Pabst was the beer sponsor of the event. You could go inside and get whatever drinks and craft beers you wanted, but once you get settled in for some good music, you just want what's nearby, so it was PBR and Old Tankard (their uh, craftier beer) the rest of the evening.

• The edgy shirt vendors and the BMX team riding at the back of the event brought in some of the vibe of Lucero's more punk-esque early days, but generally this was a regular Joe kinda crowd. Lots of families and lots of diversity. Hardly any hipsters though.

Cory Branan played the next slot. It was just him and his guitar, but he was magnetic.
He played mostly his more well known up-tempo tunes. He's a born entertainer, but not in the way of showmanship. He just knows how to get the crowd in the palm of his hand by being real and open. Guy should be a lot bigger than he is.

• There were food trucks to keep us fed. The famous Central BBQ, which I've never actually had the pleasure of eating, had a truck, but I figure I'm gonna have the real deal in the original location when I finally take the dive. I went with a Cuban sandwich from the Food Geek truck and it was divine.

The crowd loaded in for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Not to say I wasn't there for Lucero, but I was a little more excited to finally see these guys. They did not disappoint, to understate things a bit. The band was just (insert fire emoji). They're tight as hell but loose in the groove - and not in a robotic 'white dudes approximating the swing of soul music' kind of way - naw, they're the real damn deal. Paul sang his ass off - I've never seen a video of him half-assing it. It's a wonder he manages to still be a …um, larger gentleman. He probably won't be for long, because he just lays it all out there, sweating like a roofer and hollering like a Pentecostal preacher.

They played a bunch of songs from Half the City, a vein-popping cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," and…and…. they announced that the new album is DONE, and played 3 songs from it. One of them had the crowd swooning and shouting and raising hands skyward. Nobody knew a word of it, I couldn't even discern a title, but it was indescribably bad ass. What a show.

This band, when it finally gets a Grammy nod and some air time in front of a few million eyes and ears, will be huge. Not if, just when. It's going to happen. They may not be bringing much new to the table genre-wise, but they just live inside of soul music. Their songs are killer and well-written, but the experience is the thing. It's church.

•The weather was perfect. Late April is when all festivals in the south should be scheduled, even though that's not possible. It was sunny, 80, and breezy, then cooling down and breezy. Wonderful.

The main event was up next. Lucero took the stage with no horn section. I haven't seen them play without horns since 2012 or thereabout. It was a rock show.

Ben and the boys played all the hits and the crowd sang along with hands in the air. Memphis being the band's home base, this makes sense, but I've never seen so many Lucero tattoos. One was on a guy's head. That's the kind of dedication this band inspires.

We got all the favorites like "Tears Don't Matter Much," "Tonight Ain't Gonna Be Good," and "My Best Girl." We also got a good mix of Lucero's newer tunes like "Texas and Tennessee" and "Woke Up in New Orleans." On the albums, these more polished songs sound a lot different from the band's earlier punk-edged persona, but live, they fit right into the flow, the ragged vocals and gritty musicianship blending everything into a pure rock n' roll feast.

• People kept passing Ben Nichols drinks. Not water, not beer, not even mixed drinks. Nothing so refreshing for the dude singing his heart out in the warm air. Nope - pure Jack, full cups. He was fine with it.

If you've never seen Lucero live and they come within driving distance, go. I don't care if you're not particularly a fan. The show is where they make the thing work. They'll never be the best songwriters, the best singers, or the best players (aside from Rick Steff), but there's something about the mix of these southern boys, a warm night, and some cold beverages that can turn a passing interest into a lifetime love affair.

Ben played this oldie, "Outsiders," from his previous (previous as in 19 years ago) band Red 40.

Mar 16, 2016

Live Review: William Clark Green - Hill Country BBQ - Washington D.C.

William Clark Green
By Matthew Martin

The first thing you notice when you go to a show at Hill Country BBQ here in DC is usually the smell of delicious Texas-style BBQ cooking on the main level.  Once you get downstairs, the second thing you notice is how un-DC it is.  The small venue which holds about 300 brings lots of smaller (at least in this region) country and roots acts from across the country to a small, intimate stage.  Usually you can be right up close and personal with artists who are on their way to never playing to as little as 300 people on a bad night in a different country.  I saw Sturgill Simpson play here 2 years ago and I believe there were around 50 people.  That singular experience has shaped my love for this little venue in the heart of DC.

So, with that in mind, after the recommendation of this great site's end of year list and word from my girlfriend's sister and her boyfriend, I ended up at Hill Country on Saturday night to watch William Clark Green.  

To be honest, I had listened to his latest album a time or two, but I just didn't put in much time with it for whatever reason.  Life, other albums, and work can sometimes get in my way, but that's neither here nor there.  As the show got closer to start time, the bar filled up with ex-Texans (you don't have to ask Texans if they are from Texas, they'll proudly tell you without provocation). 

The show kicked off with "Next Big Thing" off of Green's recent album Ringling Road.  By the end of the song, I knew it was going to be a hell of a show.  While the song on the album is a damn good song, the song live hit another level.  I mean, it had more bite than what is already a biting song- the sarcasm soaked chorus was a stellar singalong among the nearly 300 people there.  It did leave me wondering how many people in the crowd had labeled WCG as the next big thing themselves.  I mean, it's so easy to do these days where we WANT an artist as honest and as talented as WCG to be the next big thing.  We try to will them to be the next big thing.  But, as WCG asks, "what's that mean?"  But, that's a conversation for another day and beer...

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn't really heard much of WCG until the last few months, so I had no real idea what to expect out of the show.  And, let me tell you, that may have been the best way to see the show.  I mean, WCG and his backing band played with a cohesion many bands I've seen wish they played with.  On songs like "She Likes The Beatles" and "Ringling Road," the band truly shined.  WCG commands his bandmates to keep up with his never-ending energy, and they are more than capable of responding to the task.

By the end of the show, it's safe to say that WCG had gained a few new fans.  A few years ago I really couldn't get into the whole Red Dirt/Texas Country scene.  For some reason, it seemed somewhat bland.  It wasn't long after that that it hit me (I think it was when I saw Reckless Kelly and Randy Rogers Band).  Since first becoming truly enamored with the whole scene, I don't think any band has been more invigorating or more fun to watch live.  I saw Drive-By Truckers a couple of weeks ago at the esteemed 9:30 Club here in DC.  It was amazing.  I don't know how William Clark Green's career will go.  I know how it should go.  He SHOULD be the next big thing.  He SHOULD be selling out the 9:30 Club along with the likes of Drive-By Truckers.  It starts with us, the fans.  This guy is the real deal, y'all.  Go see him when he comes around.  Go buy his whole catalog. 

Mar 1, 2016

Road Dispatch: Jonathan Tyler at the Variety Playhouse

Road Dispatch: Jonathan Tyler at the Variety Playhouse
By Kevin Broughton

On a Thursday night in Atlanta’s Little Five Points, Jonathan Tyler is in an expansive mood. In a couple hours, he’ll open for the amazing Ron Pope and The Nighthawks, then join them for a couple months’ worth of shows on this leg of their nationwide tour.  

Tyler’s 2015 release, Holy Smokes, opened to wide critical acclaim and was a springboard to several lengthy tours for him and his stellar backing band, as they opened at various times for the Drive By Truckers, Warren Haynes, and Ray Wiley Hubbard. On this night, though, it’s just Tyler and his guitar. And the aforementioned Mr. Pope? He hails from suburban Marietta, and this 18-and-up show – at the iconic Variety Playhouse -- will be packed with local partisans hailing the hometown hero. No pressure at all.

Over boiled peanuts and Bud heavies and a mostly off-the-record discussion,* Tyler holds forth on the challenges of gigs like this one. “I like playing solo shows because they put me on the spot,” he says.  “It's sink or swim.  There's no drumbeat or bass line to hide behind.  So if the lyrics and the melody don't hold water you're sinking and everybody in the room knows it.”

In his case, it’s no overstatement. Tyler’s band is a stand-alone entity in its own right, Rise and Shine. Their tight arrangements on Holy Smokes were damn near perfect, and he’ll produce their forthcoming album; their absence isn’t an oh-by-the-way thing. Pressure?

“There are times I get nervous enough to drink a liter of whiskey but that's mainly when I'm overthinking things,” says Tyler.  “I think I'm finally getting to the point that I've accepted myself and don't really care if I bomb cause I know I'm gonna wake up tomorrow and get another shot.”

Fittingly, at this point Pope strolls into the watering hole, where a table of about a dozen family and well-wishers greet the local hero. Tyler glances at the scene, then at a visitor. “I guess it’ll be a big crowd, huh?” he says with a grin. 

He’s right. Pope is as big a draw as you’d expect in his hometown. Bigger than James McMurtry last spring. And probably as big as Steve Earle and the Del McCoury band, circa 1998. Tyler walks out with his black Gibson acoustic, greets the packed house somewhat meekly, and launches into a 10-song set almost exclusively from his new album. 

And something’s immediately noticeable about this crowd: he has them. It’s a respectful audience, the kind you see regularly in Austin and wish you had in your town. What’s remarkable is they’re all here to see the headliners; and they don’t make a peep. No grumbling between songs, or agitating for the lead act. They’re listening, and roaring their approval after every song. 

Three songs in, Tyler trades the Gibson for a ’73 Telecaster and busts out “River Bottom,” “Honey Pie” and “The Devil’s Basement,” and everyone in the venue is paying rapt attention. 

On seeing Tyler with his band, you notice how comparable the live sound is to the album; Holy Smokes wasn’t just slick production. At a solo gig – the first one he’s done in about a year – what’s immediately obvious is that the lyrics, melody and vocals do indeed “hold up,” even at an acoustic setting in big venue. He has this crowd in his hand.

This Pope-crazed audience is both appreciative and understanding of Tyler, bearing with him between songs as he grabs the wrong harp, or is momentarily perplexed by a mislaid capo. “I’m actually looking for my capo,” he says, concealing some stress. “But I’ll be okay…” Mercifully, the missing implement is at his feet, and he won’t be forced to play “To Live is to Fly,” not only without duet partner Nikki Lane, but also in a much lower key. 

Picking over the last of the boiled peanuts before show time, Tyler mentioned those moments that make it worthwhile. “When everything connects it feels like I'm channeling God and I ride that wave till they kick me off stage.”

As he wound up his set with electrified versions of “Late Night Special” and “Gypsy Woman,” Tyler may not have channeled The Almighty, but he certainly rode a helluva wave. It portends well for the rest of the tour, and validates Pope’s choice for an opening act: a seasoned pro who shines in any setting.   

* Topics may or may not have included: making music with Nikki Lane; United States fiscal policy; whether bro country has its roots in shitty 80s hair music; and the perils of telling Donald Trump jokes to a New York audience. (The biggest peril is cricket noises.)

Aug 3, 2015

Live Review: John Moreland with Caroline Spence - 7-29-15 - Vienna, VA

John Moreland with Caroline Spence
7-29-15 - Jammin' Java - Vienna, VA
by Matthew Martin 

There are shows that are raucous.  There are shows that are full of bros.  There are quiet shows full of very respectful and amazing music lovers.

Then, there are those at a John Moreland show.  I could say that those people going to a John Moreland show are just more respectful than most concertgoers, but that would be wrong.  By the time the first chord is struck and the first word is sung, the crowd is already in complete awe.  This is just a fact at a John Moreland show.  You shut up because there is honestly nothing more you can do.  You are transfixed on this amazing talent on stage.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Openers are very important and this particular night was no exception.
Caroline Spence
Opening for Moreland was Caroline Spence.  If you haven't heard of Caroline Spence, you should really give her a shot.  She had a wonderful voice and is really one hell of a song-writer.  Two songs that really stuck out to me were "Whiskey Watered Down" and "Bless Your Heart."  If you're on this site, reading this review, chances are you are going to like her.  You should buy her new album, Somehow, and go see her if she is around.  I had never heard of Caroline Spence and so as I was doing a little research on her after the show, I came across this Rolling Stone article listing her as one of the 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know: Spring 2015.  Don't pass her up, folks!

Maybe 15 minutes after Ms. Spence finished her set, John Moreland took the stage to a loud round of applause.  As he settled onto his stool, the crowd began quieting down, then, as mentioned above, Moreland begins and the crowd is stunningly quiet.  I can't recall who it was now, but someone on Twitter (I believe it was Todd Farrell, Jr.) had said before that their favorite thing to witness was a crowd realizing they were in the midst of something special when John Moreland began playing.  I agree.  100%.  It is unbelievable.  I put it up there with watching Tim Barry.

For an hour and a half, Moreland played songs from his first solo album, Earthbound Blues, through the excellent new album, High On Tulsa Heat.  There were a couple of songs in there that I believe were new as well.  During the show, Moreland doesn't speak much, but when he does, he is clever, wry, and self-deprecating.  Before breaking in to "You Don't Care For Me Enough To Cry," he states, "This is a song I recently discovered was too sad for Dallas-Ft. Worth morning television."

This was my second time seeing Moreland, and I was glad to see that the crowd for this show was at least triple the size it was last time.  I hope he continues trending upwards, and with the recent success of this little circle of music we listen to (whatever you want to call it), I believe he will.

I don't think I need to tell you to go see John Moreland if he's in your area.  You know him, you love him- why wouldn't you go see him?  There are few musicians that I can't imagine missing when they come to town and Moreland is absolutely at the very top of that list.  Yeah, you'll feel all of your feelings, but hey, that's what songs are for, right?


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